The weekend getaway

My parents are on a weekend trip.

That seven-word sentence is not an accurate reflection of the frantic planning that went into it. And I don’t even mean the planning of the weekend itself; I didn’t know about any of that. I hardly know where they are, what they are doing, or whom they are with. No, I mean the part of the planning that involved my participation, and the planning in the hour before their departure. 

To start with the part that involved me: throughout the past two weeks, my mother has cornered me approximately eight times to ask if I would please stay at their house to watch my little sister (who is almost fifteen and therefore technically not so little anymore), because her end-of-term tests are next week, and she needs serenity and order, serenity and order.

“Maud, will you stay home and provide your sister with the serenity and order she needs?”

Eight times.

Not that I needed to be asked eight times—I’ve taken up residence in my parents’ home for the summer anyway. This because I have a job and a gym membership here and because it’s quite nice not having to buy my own groceries or cook my own dinner. Also, because this house has a dishwasher. And a television.

Over the course of those two weeks, my “Yup, sure thing,” slowly morphed into, “YES, SERENITY AND ORDER, I GET IT!”

Yeah, so, these things and my mom? They ain’t friends.

With that settled, only one obstacle remained: transport to the destination. Because the car broke down last week on our way to the airport (a story for another time), my parents were going by train.

My mother has used public transport exactly once in the past five years. She went to Utrecht, which is an hour from here. I travel there occasionally and have never run into any trouble. My mother, however, has notorious bad luck (another story for another time–many stories, in fact). In retrospect, it makes perfect sense that Utrecht Central Station would be struck by fire, rendering its train network comatose for the remainder of the weekend, on the first day in five years that she went anywhere near a train.

Fortunately, my dad has notorious good luck, and his good luck generally cancels out my mother’s bad luck. When they go somewhere together, one can safely assume the following: something will go wrong (for example, the car might break down on the way to the airport), but the problem will mysteriously resolve itself soon enough (for example, said breakdown would happen near the car dealer, allowing the car to be left there while a cab would pick us up and get us to the airport in time).

“Well, I can’t find the bike tickets on the site,” my dad said, wandering into the living room. He was addressing no one in particular, as he is wont to do, but did throw a meaningful glance in my direction. I was curled up on the couch, watching either tennis or a soccer match re-run. (My interest in Euro 2012 has reached a point where I feel I cannot comfortably surf the internet, read a book, or chop vegetables without a full stadium of soccer fans cheering me on in surround sound.)

“You’re buying train tickets online?” I, with my free-travel-on-weekdays student card, had been unaware of this possibility. “It’s probably filed under, somewhere, like, special tickets, or something. Extra tickets, special tickets…” He wasn’t listening. With a sigh, I unfolded myself. “Okay, I’ll do it.”

Via a quick browse around the Dutch Railways site and an interesting conversation with a ‘virtual employee’—

Me: can I buy a bike ticket online?
Virtual employee: do you wish to bring your bicycle on the train?
Me: that’s not the question. Can I buy a train ticket for my bike on this site?
Virtual employee: do you wish to bring your bicycle on the train?
Me: NO I WANT TO BUY A TICKET
Virtual employee: O.K., so that is not what you meant. Could you rephrase the question?
Me: BIKE. TICKET. SITE.
Virtual employee: I do not understand. Do you wish to speak to our customer service?

—I made two discoveries:

1) One cannot, in fact, buy a bike ticket on the Dutch Railways site;
2) One is not allowed to bring a bike on the train during peak hours at all.

When I presented my findings to the parental unit, my mother reacted with impressive serenity. “What? ARE YOU SERIOUS?! I should’ve known this would happen. Oh God why does stuff like this always happen. I’ll have to call…” She trotted off to find a phone, leaving my dad and I in charge of damage control. To spare you the details: they eventually decided to take the first available off-peak train and to buy all tickets at the station. This sparked a new dilemma: first or second class?

“If you’re paying full price anyway,” I said (aghast at the prices of train tickets), “you might as well travel first class.”

That’s what I thought!” my father said.

“Also, you wouldn’t want to put Mom in second class anyway. Who knows what kinds of lunatics she might run into.” The other day, I was sitting opposite a guy dressed in a denim onesie and a cowboy hat, with his head stuck at a 45° angle. I would hate to think what second class might have in store for a person with chronic bad luck.

“Exactly.”

And thus the problem was solved. Until I went back to shut down the computer and took a better look at the exact train route my parents were to take. They’d have to change trains—within two minutes. A tricky time slot even without a bike, let alone two of ’em.

I decided not to tell my mom.

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10 thoughts on “The weekend getaway

    1. Ooh, thanks for the rec! Blogspot, what a shame… (I wish the platforms of WordPress and Blogspot were more compatible. I understand the motivations for not making it easier, but it’s such a hassle for the users!)

      1. Ohhh by the way, what did you think of GoTs second season? I thought it was, maybe, not as good as the first. But, my god, Dinklage is a amazing.
        Every episode, it’s like I had tunnel vision and could only see his performance. :))

        1. You know, I finished it yesterday and I was just a little bit disappointed compared to the first season. I felt like some of the deviations from the book were unnecessary, and Blackwater was perhaps not as epic as I was expecting it to be. But it’s still such a great series (Dinklage is amazing) and oh my god, the next season is going to be e-pic if the book is anything to go by!

  1. I soooo want to know what happened next, did Mom’s bad luck made them miss the connection so she had to cycle to her destination? Were you able to provide the desperately needed serenity and order for little sister?

    1. Ha, that would have been even better! They did miss the connection, but were able to take the next train (which caused a thirty-minute delay). I was able to provide order, definitely – as for the serenity, I’m afraid it depends on your definition of ‘too-loud music’…

      The parents went to Rome yesterday and my dad called me to say they weren’t yet allowed on the plane because there was a fire (I think) in the jetway. I’m not joking! He said, “I thought I’d let you know so you can incorporate it into a next blog.”

    1. Merci! I should save that link somewhere in case this story ends up in my memoir/autobiography and people demand factual support of its claims.

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